ALBANY – Brian Kolb, whose DWI legal runs-in were covered this week by media outlets from Buffalo to London, announced Friday he is stepping down as the state Assembly’s Republican leader because he does not want “my own personal challenges to distract from the goals, messages and mission” of the GOP conference.
Kolb, an Ontario County state lawmaker since 2000, was under growing internal pressure to give up his leadership post – which carries no real power, given the Democratic Party’s domination of the 150-member chamber – after police found he had crashed his state-issued automobile into a ditch outside his home on Tuesday.
Kolb’s New Year’s Eve DWI arrest came a couple of weeks after he had written to his constituents to not drink and drive over the holidays.
The timing of Kolb’s decision Friday came just before next Wednesday’s start of the Legislature’s 2020 session.
It also came as GOP lawmakers – and, increasingly, some Democrats – are pressing for changes to the state’s new cashless bail law that critics say is permitting potentially dangerous criminals to get out of jail soon after being arrested. Some Republicans were questioning how Kolb could help lead the charge against that law, considering his legal run-ins.
The Yates County district attorney has been appointed as special prosecutor to handle the DWI case against Kolb.
“I will be forever grateful for the confidence my colleagues have placed in me for the past 10 years,’’ Kolb said, of his time as minority leader. “But in my heart, I know that this is the right time for a new leader to step in and advance an agenda that benefits all New Yorkers.’’
“The events of December 31 are ones I will always regret,’’ Kolb said in a written statement, adding that he has begun to seek professional help to address what he called “the challenges” facing him and his family.
In a state grown accustomed to arrests of politicians, it’s become somewhat rare in recent years for such things to grab media attention outside New York.
But, given the timing of his written warning to constituents and his arrest, Kolb’s story had an easy media attraction. “US politician drives drunk after warning people not to drive drunk,’’ read the headline this week on the BBC.
Kolb, 67, ran for governor in 2018.
As minority leader in the Democratic-controlled Assembly, Kolb’s chief task was to serve as a voice of opposition and, in his case, to promote upstate-related causes in a Legislature dominated in the majority by downstate lawmakers.